Thursday, January 22, 2009

My journey into the writing world, and writing does not pay. At least not for me!

I've known for ages that writing does not pay and yet I'm doing it. It only pays when you've found loyal readers or won the Booker Prize after years of toil. I stumbled into the writing world when I chose a career in public relations after graduation and working for one year. Upon graduation with a degree in science majoring in microbiology, work as a fresh grad in that field in the early 90s was scarce and lowly-paid in some boondock place where they usually set up factories. If I had chosen to work in such a place, the salary I earned wouldn't have covered my living and transportation allowance. And peddling scientific equipment and pharma products was not my cup of tea. These days, with biotech and scientific development booming, I think it's much easier for a better start.

I ended doing a science degree thanks to the Malaysian education system. Enough said. Although I enjoyed studying science and discovering the world of microbes for medicine, biotechnology etc, and worked hard enough to graduate with honours, I couldn't picture a life-long career with microbes. My 'alter ego' also craved social interaction, creativity and the buzz of activity. I enjoyed participating in events and being in the action of organising them.

So after one year in a HR department organising teambuilding activities for their sales force, I had the opportunity to join a public-listed firm's PR department under a very experienced boss. I learnt on the job how to handle the media, write newsletters, speeches, press releases, anything and everything that involved English words and organise events from VIP dinners,launches, social work, media tours etc.

From then on, it was no turning back from one public-listed company to another and another for the next 14 years. Writing became part and parcel of life to earn my keep.

So after 'retiring' almost four years ago, I stumbled into blogging two years ago. I was interested to explore how blogging can make money so I blogged, firstly to keep my sanity (hence this journal) and secondly, if it could make me some money, wny not? To make big money in blogging, you need to know how to draw traffic (readers by the droves) to your blog. When that happens, the advertisers pay you for space in your blog when their ads get millions of views. Or blog and review products, food, places etc to help promote their stuff and get paid. Sounds easy but not that easy. Bloggers who make five-figure or more income this way are either very hardworking, committed and/or lucky. Not me, unfortunately.

Writing for the media and corporate clients as a freelancer doesn't really pay either. The time vs money thing makes it not worth the effort actually. Research, interviews, scouting around and making sense of it all to gel with what you think the client wants involves lots of time, energy and stress. And sometimes they are all in vain when the client changes their mind, simply because they had not earlier given proper thought to what they really want in the first place. That happened yesterday to me. Twelve hours' work, late nights, wee mornings (I am only free to write and write undisturbed then) has been practically wasted due to the client's lack of god-knows-what. On top of that, I had to initially bear the brunt of their own mistake before the boss finally saw proof from me that it was her own staff's inadequacy and her own oversight that caused it.

Now it's back to the drawing board for this client who is asking for the sky when I think I can only deliver the ceiling. Makes me feel like telling her she can have her deposit back. This job is taking longer and more time than I estimated and charged for. I'll go back to the drawing board for now and see how things move from there. Must be positive that I'll conquer this client! Or, I'll have to be quick soon in cutting my losses. Reiterates the fact why I never wanted to join any consultancy and deal with clients. In-house 'clients' within the company you work for was bad enough.

There's definitely lessons to be learnt here. I have to be more choosy with clients from now on. I didn't quit my good and reasonably well-paying career to get stressed out for some pocket money. Family health and happiness first. Money second. We'll simply survive without that 40" flat screen TV and wait longer for that trip to Disneyland.

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